The opening of the strategic Manali-Leh highway at least a month in advance this year has become both a boon and bane for people driving on the route to carry supplies, including fresh vegetables to Leh.
Hundreds of vehicles are stranded, both supply vehicles and others, after last week’s heavy snowfall blocked the highway at Baralacha La pass at 16,040 feet between Darcha and Sarchu. Movement of migrant labourers to Leh-Ladakh has also been hit.
Report said supply vehicle drivers and other people are running out of food and water. Even the fresh vegetables loaded in the trucks have also started rotting as work to clear the road is taking time. Some drivers and other stranded persons have made distress calls to the authorities and also their homes telling them that they are going without food and water besides grappling with the bone-chilling cold.
Lahaul Spiti deputy commissioner Pankaj Rai told Outlook that he has deputed teams to reach out to all stranded drivers and people, including labourers, to provide them food water and also a change of clothes. The temperature in the district has dropped considerably and they don't have proper woolens.
Swaran Dogra, a truck driver who spoke to his family two days back in Jammu, said, “They never anticipated the blockade of the highway and thus were travelling with minimal food and water. The vegetables loaded in the trucks have also started rotting. They don't have money to go back to Keylong and buy woollens. They are really in distress but the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is providing them some help”.
Another issue is also about the migrant labour going to Leh and having got struck .Nearly 166 of them have also been tested positive and currently kept in isolation facilities set-up by the army and Border Roads organisation .
“We also have created the isolation facilities for the labourers and medical help, food and clothes have been provided to them,” said Rai.
There are also some reports that a few people of Leh, who were travelling via Manali, are stranded. Many of them are students who wanted to go back home after the outbreak of Covid-19 in Delhi and other places, including Mumbai and Gujarat.
The Manali-Leh highway usually opens in April-May after remaining closed for six months. But this year, after the commissioning of the Rohtang Tunnel, the BRO opened the route at least a month in advance to help the army and civilian administration at Leh to get supplies and other strategic reinforcements for the borders.
The Rohtang Tunnel has cut the distance between Manali and Leh by 46km.
The district administration has made it mandatory for the migrant labourers coming to Lahaul-Spiti to carry their RT-PCR negative reports.
Most of these labourers are from UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, Rai said.
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